TEL AVIV (Euroleague) - In five of his seven summers as the coach of Russia, David Blatt had Vitaly Fridzon in his squad.
More often than not, the 1.95m Fridzon made big plays to help the national team win important games.
The two were on opposite sides in a Turkish Airlines Euroleague Top 16 showdown on Thursday night and Blatt, despite a scintillating shooting display effort from the 27-year-old Fridzon, steered Maccabi Tel Aviv to an 80-79 triumph over BC Khimki.
The result has left both sides with 6-5 records in Group F, with Khimki one spot ahead in fourth place due to a superior points differential in their two games.
Maccabi know it’s going to find it difficult to advance to the Quarter-Finals because their last three Top 16 games are against Olympiacos, Besiktas and Barcelona.
"After our losses in the first half of the Top 16, I said it was painful, but we still weren’t out of the race," Blatt said.
"Now after winning five out of six games, I say we’re not there yet.
"We are far from there, even very far."
Even in defeat, Fridzon was a major talking point.
Having made at least one three-pointer in 18 consecutive Euroleague games before Thursday’s game, he went on to bury four of five shots from the arc and score 16 points overall.
The shooting guard's confidence seems to have skyrocketed since the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) and the London Games.
He nailed 11 of his 14 shots from long range in Russia's unbeaten run at the OQTW in Caracas, Venezuela, where he averaged more than 14 points per game, and then connected on 10 of 22 at the Olympics.
One of his three-pointers in London came at the buzzer to stun Brazil in the Preliminary Round, 75-74.
Fridzon will be a key for Russia’s new coach, Fotis Katsikaris, at the EuroBasket in Slovenia this summer when the national side tries to book a place at the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup.
Ricky Hickman hit four three-balls and had 30 points for Maccabi in the win over Khimki.